The story behind 'Wildflower'

Mark Green
Mark Green

May I be personal for a few moments? As my wife and I begin to approach our 48th wedding anniversary, let me tell you the story of the one popular tune that I probably will not be able to listen to, for emotional reasons, should my wife precede me in death. The piece is called “Wildflower” and was on the Billboard Top 10 list at the time of our wedding, which was June 17, 1973. (Please be properly impressed that I remembered that so quickly.) It was recorded by the Canadian group Skylark and even has its own webpage: wildflowersong.com.

The lyrics to the song were written by Vancouver policeman Dave Richardson and the story behind them is a poignant one. His girlfriend at the time was a nurse in the geriatric ward at Royal Jubilee Hospital. They were scheduled to have a date one particular evening, but when Richardson came by her apartment to pick her up, he found her in a very distraught condition. Two of her patients had died during the day and she was emotionally drained because of it. She said she needed to lie down and rest a while before they went out.

When she did not emerge into the living room after an unusually long time, Richardson peeked into the bedroom and saw that she had fallen asleep. Knowing that she was exhausted because of her experiences during the day, he did not attempt to awaken her, but covered her up and let her sleep. Then he went home and immediately wrote a poem that became the lyrics for the song.

Richardson gave the lyrics to his friend, David Foster, the keyboardist for Skylark, who went on to become one of the most successful music producers in the country. Then Doug Edwards, the group’s guitarist, set the words to music. Foster did the arrangement and the piece became the only big hit for Skylark. The group disbanded soon after that.

The reason the song has had such a profound effect upon me is, first of all, because it is an extraordinarily effective combination of beautiful music and moving lyrics. In his arrangement, Foster used a harp, of all things, to provide much of the background chords. The vocals were sung by Donny Gerrard, whose mellow voice was tailor-made for ballad-type tunes.

But probably the single thing that has cemented this song in my consciousness over the decades is the line from the lyrics that refers to Richardson’s refusal to wake his girlfriend after her harrowing day: “Be careful how you touch her, for she’ll awaken; and sleep’s the only freedom that she knows.”

How many times in the early years of our marriage have I awakened during the night to find my wife patiently rocking and singing to one of our six children who was fretful or ill? How many times over the last 48 years have I watched her carrying on with her household duties when I knew she had had very little sleep for days and was to the point of exhaustion? Today, if she wants to sleep halfway through the morning, it is fine with me. I try to protect her time of rest the best that I can, even if it means tiptoeing around the house long after I arise. She has paid her dues.

So, please be careful that you do not wake her up, either. “Be careful how you touch her.” So often, sleep has been a rare commodity in her life.